Every Cloud… and all that.

Processed with VSCO with b4 preset

“Every cloud has a silver lining” – This is one of those glib little phrases that get churned out when we’re told bad news by someone and we don’t really know what to say, but want to say something reassuring in the hope that everything will be alright in the end.

It’s a phrase I have muttered to myself multiple times daily for nearly a month now. Because on Halloween my lovely, but rather forgetful, husband fell 8 feet from some scaffolding and broke his back. Yes that’s right he broke his back. He fell so hard a vertebra exploded and then went back into almost the right place again – almost. The pressure on his spinal cord meant his legs were effectively being electrocuted for two days. The pain from nerve damage is not like anything else. Broken bones or even child birth don’t have anything on it, it’s in a category all on its own.

For those who follow me or my husband Charlie Budd on social media you have probably seen the references to it and that he is going to be alright. He wasn’t though, and for a several heart stopping hours I really thought our lives were going to be thrown off the edge of a cliff. I am sure the sight of a woman walking through the hospital car park at 2am in the morning sobbing uncontrollably can’t be that unusual, surely.

The hours during Charlie’s surgery to insert permanent pins and rods into his spine (effectively making him bionic!) and those waiting for him to come back onto the ward again were painfully, achingly slow and some I would never wish on even my worst enemy.

23518948_10155072900406966_5185383313688652680_n
Don’t worry the beard has remained unharmed!

But he is on the mend now after some incredible medics and surgeons have literally bolted him back together. When you really need it the NHS is a truly wonderful thing. The pins and rods he has had inserted into his back fuse several vertebrae together stablising the broken one while it heals. He has to wear a body brace to support his back and prevent him from bending and twisting for three months and then we can work on the physio side of things. But after all this he actually managed to walk out of the hospital only two weeks after he fell.  

How can I possibly find a silver lining out of this?

Well for a start he could be paralysed or even dead and he isn’t so we can tick those boxes!

The injuries Charlie has sustained mean he will take a long time to recover and return to normal. The thing is we don’t quite know what normal is going to be just yet. He can walk, well more of a shuffle really, and as he says himself “he ain’t gonna win any races against a three toed sloth any time soon!”  But he is getting stronger and more mobile every day. (Thanks be to all the Gods that ever existed!)

However, this is going to be a life changing event for us. He cannot work for at least six months and even then he won’t be able to return to his former occupation. Charlie was a high end painter and decorator with an attention to detail I have rarely seen matched. He is/ was booked up for most of next year already. But there is certainly no way he’s going near any more ladders even if he were able to bend and move enough to be able to do all the things he did before.

This could be viewed as a disaster, a tragedy, a calamity, how are we going to cope? And this dear reader is where my silver lining comes in. Where the little sunbeam rays of hope creep their shiny fingers around the oppressive clouds of doom.

Charlie, although very good at painting, has other talents too. Some of you may have seen his instagram posts as @thetallphotographer on instagram. He is well versed in photography having taken pictures since he was a child, and more recently proved a dab hand at cinemagraphs and plotagraphs. If you want to see what those are have a look at his Instagram feed.

For a long while now we have both been coasting along doing what we’re doing and not being completely satisfied with the direction of travel. Don’t get me wrong I love teaching and all things sewing related, especially pattern cutting! But we have felt that we weren’t quite where we wanted to be with our respective businesses. Charlie is a creative soul and needs to be channeling that creativity in a more satisfying way. He is extremely good at putting together small but perfectly formed videos showcasing independent businesses and has been working on this more recently with a view to turning it into a business. This is now becoming a reality as editing is something he can do in small bouts of sitting at his Mac.

Queue a massive kick up the pants! A life changing event. A chance to take stock.

Now I don’t advocate that taking a nosedive from some scaffolding is the answer to everyone’s prayers but it has brought us up short. Made us take a good, hard look at what we’ve got, where we want to be and how are we going to get there.

It has made us reassess what’s important. We both work bonkers hours and actually enjoy working but do we need to do it how we were doing it? Is there a better way? Can we get off the treadmill we’re on and create a better life?

I think we can. So while breaking your back and being in screamingly excruciating pain really fucking sucks, (and I make no apologies for swearing, I’ve done an awful lot of that too lately: I’ve seen my husband in screaming agony – literally, and I’ve seen the MRI scans of his broken back), the silver linings really are becoming visible.

I’m working from home more and will be for the foreseeable future, but I am actually more productive. I have a new vision for where I want to go with Sew Me Something, what we can provide to you the sewers and dressmakers, and I have a better idea of how we are going to get there. So watch this space.

Another of the wonderfully glib phrases that springs to mind here is “when life gives you lemons – make lemonade”.

“RIGHT” (she says hands on hips standing in the middle of the room) “pass me the fucking juicer!!!”

 

Sewing Imogen’s Front Placket

Imogen placket cover image

This is a tutorial I have been meaning to put up here for some time now, but with one thing and another it has taken me until now.

The Imogen Top is a pretty straightforward one to put together but to get the front placket absolutely ‘bang on’ takes a bit of accuracy so here is how I do it.

 

File 11-11-2017, 11 31 28
I tend to apply the interfacing and then trim off any overhanging pieces. This ensures you’re using the fabric as the guide for sewing and pinning not the interfacing.

Make sure you have interfaced the placket pieces (and one of the neckbands.)

File 11-11-2017, 11 32 22Like anything it’s the prep that makes all the difference. So marking the stitching points for the placket opening are key. I use a pin and a marker pen for added accuracy, rather than tailor’s tacks or chalk, but whatever works for you. Just remember the A word!!

File 11-11-2017, 11 32 36The little dot at the corner of the placket opening is marked by poking a pin through the dot on the paper and then gently lifting the paper away from the fabric and marking where the pin goes through the fabric with the pen.

File 11-11-2017, 11 32 57You can then flip over the fabric and where the pin comes out of the second layer mark with the pen again.

File 11-11-2017, 11 33 13On the placket pieces make sure to mark the small dot at one end using the same method of poking the pin through and marking with a pen on both pieces to make sure you get a pair.

File 11-11-2017, 11 33 45

Now when you come to offer up the placket pieces to the front neck opening you can match up these dots exactly. Remember to place the RIGHT side of the PLACKET to the WRONG side of the FRONT. This way you end up doing the topstitching on the right side keeping it nice and tidy.

File 11-11-2017, 11 34 01

File 11-11-2017, 11 34 16
Place a pin at the base of the placket where the dot is to make sure you end exactly on the dot.

Sew down the sides of the opening attaching the placket pieces with a 1cm seam allowance. Again accuracy here with the seam allowance will mean it’s easier to finish the placket neatly.

File 11-11-2017, 11 34 32

Make sure to finish exactly on the dot!

File 11-11-2017, 11 35 54
Slow your stitching right down and even hand wheel or just sew one stitch at a time to make sure you finish exactly on the dot.

You should have two perfectly level rows of stitching. (If you mark everything accurately.)

File 11-11-2017, 11 36 24

Press the placket away from the front so it lies over the seam allowances.

File 11-11-2017, 11 36 40.jpg

Flip the front over and snip into the ends of the lines of stitching. Again it’s the A word. Accuracy is important here too, because if you don’t snip right up to the ends of sewing you will get “woolly corners”, to quote my old needlework teacher, when you try to pull the placket over to the right side.

File 11-11-2017, 11 36 57.jpg

You must snip in far enough to allow the placket to sit flat after being pulled over to the right side.

File 11-11-2017, 11 37 14.jpg

Press under the raw edge that is left on the placket by just under 1cm.

File 11-11-2017, 11 37 33.jpg
The pins on the right side should be turned around so they follow the direction of sewing. Basically this means you always have the pin head towards you so it’s easier to remove the pins as you go. 

Fold the pressed edge over to enclose the seams and to sit just over the sewing line of the seam. Pin in place along the length of the placket. Pinning this way will hold more of the placket in place as you sew.

If the folded placket doesn’t ‘fill the space’ ie. sit neatly inside the gap without hanging over or leaving a gap between the other placket pieces you may need to adjust how much has been folded under in the previous step.

File 11-11-2017, 11 37 54

Flip the front over and you can see the little triangular pieces of the front left behind the placket.

File 11-11-2017, 11 38 12

Flip the placket pieces back over to the wrong side and fold the triangular piece down. Fold the placket pieces back in place.  

File 11-11-2017, 11 38 27

Make sure they are even along the bottom edges, and create a perfect V shape from the right side. The triangular piece is tucked down to the wrong side now so it should look nice and neat and level.

File 11-11-2017, 11 39 06

Sew from the right side along the edge of the placket piece. Make sure that none of the original placket seam stitching is visible and that the placket hangs just over that line of sewing.

File 11-11-2017, 11 39 41
You can use a pin to hold the bottom edge of the placket in exactly the right place so you can sew one stitch from the placket on to the front.

Drop the needle down so you can pivot and sew along the bottom of the folded over triangular piece. Stop just in time so you can pivot again and do one stitch to take you back onto the other placket piece.

File 11-11-2017, 11 40 00

Sew back up the edge of the other placket piece. You should have a row of sewing that comes down one edge of the placket hops onto the front, across the flat bottom of the placket, hops back onto the other side of the placket and up the other side.

File 11-11-2017, 11 40 36.jpg

You can remove the marker pens spots with a paintbrush and a dab of water.
You may note while reading through this tutorial that I haven’t used stay stitching around the opening as described in the pattern instructions. This is for several reasons:

  • I find the extra stitching can get in the way of real accuracy.
  • They can remain visible after sewing in the placket.
  • Most of the time a stable fabric is used so it’s not strictly necessary. And if it’s not necessary there’s no point!
  • I’m not a “sewing purist,” so am quite happy to use whatever processes I feel I need wherever I feel I need them – or not.

I included the stay stitching in the instructions as a way of making sure to get an accurate opening following feedback from our pattern testers.  But please let me know if you use stay stitching here of if you prefer not to.

There are always ‘better’ ways of doing things and sharing the knowledge is what we’re all about. 🙂

Jules x

 

Sewing Gathers

Untitled-3

Gathers can be tricky little blighters to sew accurately and neatly. Usually a double row of long machine stitches will suffice.

However, if you have a full amount of gathers to sew or even a rather bouncy fabric to tame, an extra row of gathering stitches can be of great benefit.

File 27-10-2017, 10 42 37
The third row of gathering stitches is beyond the seam allowance. 

The first two rows are sewn within the seam allowance, so you don’t have to remove them after you have stitched the gathers into place. Remember don’t reverse and leave long tails to the gathering threads.

File 27-10-2017, 10 42 19
Three rows of long machine gathering threads.

The third row can be sewn below the seam line, about 2cm from the raw edge. This gives a wider channel in which to sew the seam line and ensures that the gathers are small and nice and close together.

File 27-10-2017, 10 41 56
You can use a pin to separate the bobbin threads from the needles threads.

Pull up the gathering threads as normal by taking up the bobbin threads and gently easing the fabric along the threads.

File 27-10-2017, 10 41 08
Spread out the gathers evenly.
File 27-10-2017, 10 41 40.jpg
Easing up the gathering.

You can use a pin at the end to anchor the threads by winding them around in a future of eight.

File 27-10-2017, 10 40 53
Sew a normal sized 1.5cm seam.

The extra row means that the gathers are held in place as the seam is sewn.

File 27-10-2017, 10 40 15
The darker row of the seam line is stitched between the second and third rows of gathering threads
File 27-10-2017, 10 40 00
The Pin holes left can be removed by running your thumb nail over them. 

The extra row of gathering stitches can be removed after the seam has been sewn.

File 27-10-2017, 10 39 34
Neat, even finished gathers.

Beautifully even and neat gathers sewn with THREE rows of gathering stitches. It might seem like another step to complete but let’s face it, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing properly!

This is a technique that would be really useful when making up our NEW Celia Top pattern.

 

The Good Life

File 28-09-2017, 20 40 36

I have a confession to make – I don’t really do holidays. That sounds a bit sad when you write it down but it’s not that I don’t like going on holiday, it’s more that I don’t really have the time to go away for weeks at a time. So we tend to do smaller mini-holidays instead.

We had such a one a couple of weeks ago when we went to the Good Life Experience. It’s a kind of festival for ‘grown-ups’. Not that there wasn’t alcohol and late nights involved don’t get me wrong! But it was so much more than just getting hammered in a field (and I’ve done my fair share of that too!).

It really is about the good life – no not the Tom and Barbara variety –  the GOOD THINGS IN LIFE. And it was another chance for us to use our new bell tent that has a stove – yes a tent with it’s own heating! I can’t tell you what utter bliss this is.

 

The festival is run by a team that include Cerys Mathews, she of Catatonia and now 6Music and Charlie and Caroline Gladstone who started Pedlars -(yes I do have a wish list) and is held at Charlie and Caroline’s pad in Flintshire – Hawarden Castle.

File 28-09-2017, 21 02 37.jpeg
The walk back from the Old Castle and the view of the current Hawarden Castle.

My Charlie, or @thetallphotographer as some of you might know him, was one of the photographers for the festival which meant we could get in early and joined in the singing at the old castle with Cerys and Sills & Stich. We were creating the beginnings of a festival choir that would continue to grow over the weekend. It’s incredibly uplifting being part of a group of singing people. Not that I can sing particularly well but hiding in amongst lots of other voices is very encouraging.

Good Life Experience 2017 Charlie Budd James Sills and Cerys Matthews-5502.jpg
A bit of a sing-a-long with Cerys and Sills & Stich

The views from the old castle were just stunning and we could see over the rest of the festival and the field of official Bell Tents.

Good Life Experience 2017 Charlie Budd Bell Tents-5520.jpg
The view over the festival from the Old Hawarden Castle. You can just see our bell tent right at the back.

It was such a chilled and relaxed atmosphere, everyone was chatting with people they had just met and it was wonderful to just go “ Ahhhhhh” with a G&T in hand. What was even better about this festival was that there was so much ‘other stuff’ going on. There were talks and readings, bush craft, cookery demos, craft activities to try out, lots of amazing festival food, unusual music to listen to, loads of stuff for kids to do, even dogs are welcome too!

I joined a peg weaving workshop and made a surprisingly warm and comfortable cushion/mat thing. Great for sitting on cold camping chairs.

Good Life Experience 2017 Charlie Budd Nellie and Eve Weaving-6216.jpg
A bit of peg weaving with Nellie and Eve

I met people I had only chatted with on Instagram and Twitter who were all lovely, including Sara Tasker whose daughter is called Orla as well. She was giving a talk on Instaphotography – yes there is such a thing!

File 28-09-2017, 21 10 24.jpeg
Sara Tasker looking incredibly Glam in a lovely summery dress and wellies – Charlie is there doing his thing too.

I joined in with the Oh Comely Book Club – I hadn’t actually read the book they were discussing yet, it’s called Strange Heat Beating by Eli Goldstone,  I have it on my kindle ready go.

Good Life Experience 2017 Charlie Budd Oh Comely Book Club-6433.jpg
The Oh Comely Book Club

I listened to the wonderful Michael Rosen, who held a whole tent of kids and adults completely rapt with his stories.

Good Life Experience 2017 Charlie Budd Michael Rosen-6166.jpg

I threw axes and wasn’t really rubbish at it! I hit the target more often than not and I really enjoyed it – now where do we keep the axe at home?

Good Life Experience 2017 Charlie Budd Axe Throwing and Archery-114
No this isn’t me and it isn’t a dead horse in the background either. Ha ha ha 

I wore my wellies the entire weekend – yes it rained and was muddy but hey this is Wales in September what do we expect?

File 28-09-2017, 20 40 36

And…. I want to go back next year. I loved it. I know spending a wet weekend in a tent isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time (you don’t have to camp by the way, there are weekend tickets too and you can just stay in a local hotel). But it only rained at overnight and I got to listen to the tawny owls in the woods nearby and of course spend some time with my love.

You can order early bird tickets hereIt is a wonderful festival full of inspiration and joy I hope you get the chance to go sometime, maybe I’ll see you there next year?

Jules x

SaveSave

Apples, Oranges, Pears, Bananas

File 14-09-2017, 10 26 48.jpeg

Would a size by any other name fit the same? I know I’m badly mis-quoting Shakespeare here but listening to a programme on iplayer the other day prompted me to think about dressmaking pattern sizing as opposed to commercial clothing sizing.

Surfing through iplayer to find something interesting to listen to the other day I stumbled upon a programme called More or Less. One of the topics covered in the programme was on clothes sizing, something that I get asked about a hugely in our workshops.

It was only a short piece but rather interesting, you can listen to the full programme here and the piece about sizing starts at 19.45.

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 12.56.19.png

Commercial sizing hasn’t been around that long at all really, as before the Second World War clothes were mainly tailor made, made at home or were bought from department store or catalogues and then altered.

In the 1950’s the UK Board of Trade did an enormous survey of women’s measurements in an attempt to try and standardise it all to encourage women to shop for stuff and aid the flagging economy after the war. However, due to the huge number of sizes needed to cater for the majority of the population, that was just unworkable.

IMG_0849.jpg

This is one of the main reasons the fashion industry has to work with averages. If the bust size of the smallest customer is X and the Largest Y then the measurements in between need to be divided pretty evenly to create a ‘range’ of sizes to cover most people and are usually labelled 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 etc.  But to be honest it might as well be apples, oranges, pears, bananas, as the name of the size has absolutely no bearing on the actual measurements.

So, if we can accept that the names of the sizes are not directly connected to our body measurements and don’t really mean anything relevant,  it all sounds pretty doable – right? Except when you bring into consideration the more modern concept of the ‘target customer’.

Designers and manufacturers all have their own specific target markets. Top Shop’s range is about age 16 -25 young slim and athletic frames. While White Stuff is more 25 – 55 with a slightly more mature figure (that’s euphemism for a fatter tum!). Evans and other brands may cater for even more specific demographics, but each has their ideal customer.

IMG_0852.jpg

Going by exact body measurements the population would comprise of the 126 different sizes mentioned int the Radio 4 piece, but do you really want to be described as size 114 or size 0? I don’t think I would to be honest. Each group of customers, rather than being differentiated by individual size, has appropriated the ‘normal size’ banding of 8 -26  so a size 12 from Top Shop will of course be different from a size 12 in White Stuff or Evans, yet they are still all called ‘size 12’.  And so ‘vanity sizing’ has appeared to become the norm.

Although I don’t necessarily think this is all bad. I am careering headlong into middle age with breakneck speed and have the grey hairs and extra inches to prove it, but even if I still had the figure I used to in my twenties I don’t think I would want to shop where my teenage daughter does. My attitude, lifestyle and general outlook on life have guided me to find my own ‘Style Tribe’. I know the brands of clothing that suit me and I know roughly what size I am. I’m not that bothered if the size 16 I wear should really be a size 24 or anything else. If it fits and I feel good – that’s alright with me.

IMG_0850.jpg

Perhaps this is where us Independent Pattern Designers have the edge on the ‘Big Boys’. While they are still trying to be all things to all people we can be more specific. Our branding and size charts also reflect who we design for – usually people like us.

DMCG 11th Shoot-10276

I love the aesthetic of Sew Over It patterns, they have a wonderfully distinct vintage look to them. The same applies to Tilly, her pretty colours and 60’s inspired silhouettes again feed another group of dressmakers. A lot of the time we dip in and out of different ‘Tribes’ too, depending on our moods or occasion. I buy from White Stuff, Boden and Hobbs as well as M&S.  

So does it really matter that sizing is different from one company to another? Granted it’s hard to navigate the choppy waters of sizing on the High Street, but should it make that much difference to us if we are going to be making our own clothes? The information supplied with each pattern includes the body measurements for the different sizes. After all we measure and fit and alter the clothes to suit our own shapes and bodies.

File 20-07-2017, 13 14 31

Don’t we?

Or do we just expect it to fit if we make up a specific size? Most of the time I make up a Toile to check the fit before I make up the final garment.

So what do you do?

Jules x

SaveSave

Is September the New January

File 05-09-2017, 17 01 48I am wearing a scarf!

I’m also sitting in the garden with a cup of coffee answering emails and generally planing my day and the week ahead. But I’m wearing a scarf – and there in lies the difference.

The mornings are becoming distinctly Autumnal and there is a bit of a chill on the back of my neck as I sit on the bench in the garden, so my scarf has its first outing of the new season.

August has ended and with it the Summer holidays. Gone are the relaxed mornings without having to duck the sniper like bullets of questions fired at me by a sulky teenager late for school. My kitchen table has been an oasis of early morning calm throughout August, as those of you who wrangle teenagers will know – they rarely surface before noon.

September has sidled her way in and every day the changes in season become more apparent. Our tomato plants have heaved their last sigh and the few remaining fruits have turned a beautiful golden orange. Our Elder tree has almost been picked clean by the starlings, save the ones I managed grab. And my youngest is back to school in her last year of High School.

File 05-09-2017, 17 02 14
The last of the tomatoes.
File 05-09-2017, 17 04 17
What’s left of the elderberries.
20840928_522207324786877_8296772796589337_n
Orla and Sugar

The wheel is turning – but I rather like that.

I rather enjoy the ending of something you have enjoyed, but know will return. It’s the opportunity to  say “thank you, see you again soon” and then “Hello again, back already” to what is to come with all that Autumn has to offer.

I really enjoy making plans for the new things that are to come. Friends of mine lament the loss of Summer and the longer light evenings, but there is nothing nicer that coming home lighting the fire and cosying up as the evenings becomes darker and the weather more inclement.

File 05-09-2017, 17 01 06

The change from Summer to Autumn around September time is far more pronounced than the actual New Year in January, for me at least. After all the 1st January is still mid-Winter, but maybe it has more to do with the new academic year starting. Traditionally children were given the summer months free from schooling to help their families with the harvests. Then when all was safely gathered in they had to start back again. So I suppose it all links together somehow.

My sewing plans are changing too. Some of the projects I really want to make have had to go on the “next year pile”. But that gives me space to focus on other projects that need to be prepared and started in readiness for the Winter.

IMG_0854

The lovely winter coat I have been using for the last 10 years has finally given up the ghost so that is a project I need to complete fairly swiftly!

I’d like some new trousers, slim legged but not sure of the pocket detail yet.

The Julia top, lengthened is easy to throw on over jeans, so a couple of those in some new French Terry or quilted jersey would be great.

I also fancy a new dress. Maybe one with a waist seam and pockets? Where’s my sketchbook I feel some designing coming on…..

What are you planning on making this Autumn? I’d love to know.

Jules x

The Day We Went To Brum

File 04-09-2017, 16 47 57Thank you so much to all of you that come to meet us for a bit of fabric shopping in Birmingham last week.

It was lovely to see some familiar faces waiting at Stratford Station and waving out of the window attracted a few more to join us at a couple of the stops on the way.

We met more people at Saint Martin’s Church, familiar faces and some new ones too.

The Rag Market was our first stop and to be honest I could have spent all morning in there.

File 04-09-2017, 16 48 25
Looks like the ladies have found something interesting, and it’s not like they’re posing or anything!! 
File 04-09-2017, 16 48 55
There’s even more fabric in the market outside too!

Then it was lunch at Browns while we shared our fabric finds. Luckily we missed the main shower – or so we thought. 

File 04-09-2017, 16 57 21

File 04-09-2017, 16 59 33

File 04-09-2017, 16 59 55

File 04-09-2017, 17 00 15

File 04-09-2017, 17 00 41

File 04-09-2017, 17 01 04

As we headed over to Barry’s Fabrics the heavens opened and a rather sodden group of sewists arrived to drip all over even more fabric.

File 04-09-2017, 17 01 29
This is definitely one for a “caption competition” !

File 04-09-2017, 17 01 54

The last stop of the day was Fancy Silks to drool over yet more gorgeous fabrics. Although I had spent my quota already so I may have to come back again soon.

File 04-09-2017, 17 02 17
The sun shines on the righteous!

I think the day was held up as a resounding success and everyone enjoyed themselves hugely,  including me.

The general consensus is that we need to do this again as fabric shopping with other fabric minded people is SO MUCH more fun!

So watch this space as we will be organising another one before Christmas.

Jules x

 

How to Make a Fabric Necklace

IMG_0681I’m often asked in the shop or at shows where I get my necklaces from. Well, I make them! And they are really easy to do, so I thought I would show you just how easy they are.

You’ll need :

IMG_0655

A fat quarter of fabric

6 polystyrene balls about 2 – 3cm in diameter

Matching thread

IMG_0656Measure around a polystyrene ball to get its circumference. In my case it was 6.5cm. Add on the seam allowances of  2cm. This gives you the width of the strips of fabric you need to cut as 8.5cm.

 

Cutting

Press and lay out the fabric so it’s nice and flat. If using several layers line them up so the selvedges are level.

IMG_0657I often find they are so quick and easy to do you can make several in one go by layering up the fabric and cutting 3 or 4 layers at a time.

IMG_0658Cut bias strips from the fat quarter the cutting width you need. Cut enough strips to sew together to make about 1m. In this case it was only 2 strips needed.

IMG_0659Sew the strips together by lining up the first strip with the right side up horizontally. Then place the second strip with the right side down, vertically over the end of the first strip.

IMG_0661Sew diagonally from the top left corner to the bottom right corner. Trim down the seam to just under 1cm.

IMG_0662Then press the seam open and flat.

IMG_0664Fold the bias strip in half lengthwise with the right sides on the inside.

IMG_0665Sew a seam just under 1cm along the raw edges to create a tube. You don’t really need to pin,  you can use your fingers as pins to hold the layers together as you sew.

IMG_0666

Turn the tube the right way around. I’ve used a rouleau turner here but you could pin across one end and push it through with a pencil instead.

 

IMG_0667
Use the latch on the loop turner to poke through the folded edge of the fabric.
IMG_0668
As you pull the loop turner down into the tube the latch closes and brings the edge of the tube with it.
IMG_0670
A bias strip of Cumberland sausage

 

In the middle of the length of bias tube, tie a knot.

IMG_0672

Then thread a polystyrene ball down the tube until it hits the knot.

IMG_0673

Tie another knot keep the poly ball tight up against the first knot.

IMG_0674

Repeat so you have 3 balls one side of the centre knot.

IMG_0675

Then thread a poly ball and tie a knot on the other side of the centre knot. Repeat the process again so you have a central knot with 3 balls either side and 3 knots holding them in place.

IMG_0676

Cut the ends of the tube off so they are level.

IMG_0677

Tuck in the raw edges and slip stitch them closed. Give the ends a quick press to help them sit flat.

IMG_0679

Now you can tie the ends together to wear your necklace

IMG_0682

Happy Sewing!

An Even Quicker Unpicker

Sew Me Something Macro -5Did you know about the little red blob on your un-picker? It isn’t there to just look beautiful, it really does have a practical purpose as well.

If you want to unpick a seam super quick all you need to do is use the shorter spike on your un-picker, the one with the red blob, under the row of stitching and then “zip”along the row of sewing slicing through the stitches.

The red blob prevents the spike poking through the underneath of the fabric and slicing though the garment as well.

Give it a go, it really does make for quicker unpicking!

 

How to Sew Darts Without Dimples

File 15-08-2017, 16 57 36Darts are one of the things that I’m asked about frequently when I’m teaching dressmaking. How to mark them, sew them and how to avoid getting that little dimple at the end are the most common questions.

So let me explain….

Firstly let’s look at what darts are and what they do.

Where the dart shaping is

 

Darts are a form of “suppression”. That is they   suppress the fabric to create the three-dimensional shape you want to fit around and over the body. Pleats, gathers, tucks are also forms of suppression that allow you to mould and manipulate the fabric to create the shapes you want.

Darts will reduce the fabric from the apex of a curve to the outer edge or in the case of a fishtail or asymmetric darts to an area of ‘fit’. So basically creating shape over your curved bits – bust, buttocks, belly and shoulder blades – those areas really.

 

In flat pattern terms a dart does the same job as a split in a flat piece of paper which when overlapped pushes the centre of the paper up to create a three-dimensional shape.

File 15-08-2017, 15 46 34
Cutting through the paper allows the “dart” to be removed.
File 15-08-2017, 15 46 22
The dart is folded outfit decreases the outer edge causing the middle to lift.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most darts will be marked on the pattern as straight lines.

File 15-08-2017, 15 45 57

However, our bodies are not made up of straight lines. We are a series of curves, some more than most but we are all most definitely not Lego people or Madonna with pointy boobs!

This means that the darts we need should follow the curves of the body. I will explain further once we’ve looked at how to mark out the darts.

Marking Darts

Transferring the dart markings from pattern to fabric can be done in a whole host of different ways. Many people like tailors tacks and admittedly they do have their place in some sewing projects, but coming from industry and being used to speedier sewing techniques I prefer the double pin method.

Another handy tip is to mark the end of the dart 1cm back from the point of the dart before you mark the dart onto the fabric. You’ll see the reason when we come to sew the dart.

File 15-08-2017, 15 45 40

Double pinning

Snip the ends of the legs of the dart as they sit on the edge of the garment.

File 15-08-2017, 15 45 29

File 15-08-2017, 15 45 12
Only very small snips mind, nothing that goes in too far to the seam allowance.

Poke a pin through the end of the dart (the new one, 1cm back from the original point) and then flip over the fabric and pattern.

File 15-08-2017, 15 44 52
I have made a hole at the new point to allow the pin head to go though the paper more easily.

Where you can see the pin is poking out from the underneath layer push another back through.

File 15-08-2017, 15 44 20

Carefully remove the pattern allowing the pin head to slip through the hole to mark the dart. Then when you remove the pattern and separate the layers of fabric a pin should remain in each piece marking the end of the dart.

File 15-08-2017, 15 43 53

You can use this method to mark any type of dart, but just be careful the pins don’t fall out before you’ve pinned the dart in place!

Pinning the dart

Pinch the fabric together creating a small pleat and match up the small snips at the edge of the fabric and pin vertically in together.

File 15-08-2017, 15 43 28

Follow the crease of the pleat until you reach the marker pin. Then remove and replace that pin vertically where it came out.

File 15-08-2017, 15 42 48

You can draw in the dart line if you choose with a fabric pen or tailors chalk.

File 15-08-2017, 15 42 35

Another handy hint is to use the tail of the starting threads to pull around and use as a guide once you’ve sewn a couple of stitches.

File 15-08-2017, 15 42 17
Pull off extra long tails of thread.
File 15-08-2017, 15 42 03
Use the threads to act as a guide for stitching the dart.

Sewing the dart

Starting at the edge of the fabric sew in towards the point of the dart. Now going back to what we mentioned earlier about the darts following the contours of the body, this now means that the dart we sew will be slightly curved and NOT a straight line. Admittedly it is subtle but it will make a difference to how the dart sits and fits over the body.

File 15-08-2017, 15 40 37
The sewing line sits in a very slight curve above the chalk line.

And marking the end of the dart 1cm back from the point also allows us to curve or “stitch into the dart” by extending the stitching line almost parallel to the edge of the fabric.

This reduces the angle that the sewing line hits the folded edge of the dart and means the end of dart will lay flat and not dimple. My old needlework teacher used to say “think hill not mountain”!

File 15-08-2017, 15 40 58
The stitching line gently curves into the fold of the dart creating a smooth line.

When you get to the end of the dart you can either run a few stitches off the fabric and then knot the ends – great for lightweight fabrics.

Or personally I prefer to drop the needle down, pivot the fabric around and sew back into the dart. This is quick and easy and won’t bulk out the end of the stitching too much.

File 15-08-2017, 15 41 50
Pivot at the end of the dart and sew back into the dart pleat.

Sewing a slightly curved off dart is just one of those things to practice. It is a good opportunity to get some scraps out and sew a dozen to get the hang of it. It’s like anything – the more you do the better you’ll get.

File 15-08-2017, 15 41 36

Pressing the dart

First of all it’s best to ‘set the stitches’ this just means pressing the dart as you’ve stitched it, so the stitches are pressed into the fabric and ‘set’. Do this from both sides of the dart.

File 15-08-2017, 15 37 50

Then press the dart from the right side over a tailor’s ham or if you don’t have one of those a tightly rolled towel will do.

File 16-08-2017, 16 28 06
Press carefully from the right side to allow the curve to remain in the dart.

Pressing carefully will help to eliminate those pesky dimples at the ends of the darts as well.

File 16-08-2017, 16 27 33
No unsightly dimples at the end of the dart.
File 16-08-2017, 16 26 57
From the wrong side you can see how the dart just comes to a neat point with no extra bulk.

This method of marking, sewing and pressing darts is certainly not the only way to do it, but I know it does give good results and sewing good darts is definitely worth getting right. It will give a much more professional look to your finished garments.

File 15-08-2017, 16 58 02

Happy dart sewing

Jules x